— -- Vice President-elect Mike Pence defended President-elect Donald Trump's recent tweet claiming without evidence that "millions" of fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 election.
"It's his right to express his opinion as President-elect of the United States," Pence told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" on Sunday morning. "He’s going to say what he believes to be true, and I know he is always going to speak in that way as president."
When pressed about whether he believes the claim is accurate, Pence said, "I think one of the things that’s refreshing about our president-elect and one of the reasons why I think he had an incredible connection with people all across this country is because he tells you what's on his mind."
"But why is it refreshing to make false statements?" Stephanopoulos said.
"Look, I don't know that that is a false statement," Pence replied.
The vice president-elect also repeatedly cited a Pew Charitable Trusts study on voter registration records. "I think the President-elect wants to call to attention to the fact there has been evidence over many years," he said.
The 2012 Pew study in question focused on the need to update voter registration records.
Trump claimed in his Nov. 27 tweet that "if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally," he would have won the popular vote for president.
The next day, the Pew study's primary author, David Becker, tweeted in response to references to his research: "As primary author of the report the Trump camp cited today, I can confirm the report made no findings re: voter fraud. We found millions of out of date registration records due to people moving or dying, but found no evidence that voter fraud resulted. Voter lists are much more accurate now than when we issued that study in 2012, thanks to the 20 states sharing data through @ericstates_info."
He suggested that the Trump campaign didn’t focus on the popular vote because it wasn’t what was needed to win. "I can assure you if this [election] had been about the popular vote, Donald Trump and I would have been campaigning a whole lot more in Illinois and California and New York."
The latest figures from the Associated Press show Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump in the national popular vote by roughly 2.5 million votes.